Airbrushing ABC’s

Get the finish you deserve on your latest project!

So you have finished assembling that masterpiece of a model you have been working on for months.  Now comes the real fun part – finishing!

For model airplanes that require painting, or for hobbyists who want to paint over an existing finish, there are a couple of options. Some kits may have small jars of paint included that require the use of a paintbrush to apply. However, a much more professional application can be achieved if the paint is airbrushed onto the surface of the model. The major benefit of using airbrushing technique is its even overall coating and uniform finish. Model paints tend to leave spots of uneven paint distribution whereas airbrushing gives a much neater professional coverage.

Airbrush Basics

An airbrushing tool is a hand-held cylinder, much like a brush without bristles, and with a small jar attached to it for filling with paint. The “brush” is supplied with air from a compressor, or from compressed carbon dioxide can. The air (or CO2) forces the paint out from the attached jar and through the cylinder. Gentle movements of the hand, combined with finger adjustments to the pressure control wheel, will allow the user to disperse paint evenly and with a finer degree of control than a regular brush might permit.

Airbrushing can allow for a very large surface to be covered in a fraction of the time than traditional paintbrush methods. Along with airbrushing being much faster, it blends colors together seamlessly, so that colors seem to flow into one another without any obvious brush strokes.

Airbrushes and airbrush kits come in both advanced and beginner varieties. We recommend SQ52000 Master Air found on as a starter set because it contains everything you need to get started and does a great job at a good price.  However, there are many other varieties out there to choose from. Iwata, Badger and Grex are just a few we like.

Types of Paint

There are essentially three types of paint that are used for applying to model aircraft: lacquers, enamels and acrylics. Acrylics are water-soluble and great for indoor use, because there are no harmful fumes associated with its use. Enamels and lacquers are also good and can provide a glossier sheen to the completed work. Be aware that all paints must be used in ventilated areas because their fumes can be dangerous to inhale.  We recommend Vallejo paints due to the high-quality finish and ease of use.  They are easily thinned for airbrushing and also offer many choices in paints already thinned specifically for airbrushes.

Single vs Double Airbrush

In addition to the paint selections, there are also single and double action airbrushes. Single action, as implied, operates from the single act of triggering the release of the spray. They are simpler and less expensive, and excellent for beginners who are still mastering the airbrushing application technique. However, for different thicknesses of lines, the nozzle must be changed out, or the spray volume can be altered.


Double action allows the artist to mix the paint and air ratios while painting. It operates much like a single action airbrush, but, the air and paint amounts that are dispersed can be controlled while the trigger is pulled back, which allows for more command over the outcome. Double action airbrushes are often used by advanced artists to create more sophisticated effects. While the basics of airbrushing can be learned very quickly, mastery can take years.

Let us know any additional questions you may have in the comments below about painting models, we love to help!

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